Thursday 10 November 2016

Love Trumps Hate

The American people have spoken and I'm gutted at their choice for the 45th President of the United States of America.  While Trump and his values are a complete and utter anathema to me, the American people have exercised their democratic right, we have to respect that right.  History will show how right or wrong that democratically elected choice was.

As darkness and despair, hopelessness and anger, lick at our souls, now is the time for us to shine the fire of love and hope more brightly than ever. We must turn away from those who will spread hatred and fear. We have to focus on the light within ourselves. We have to fight to keep that light of hope shining in the face of despair and darkness and the evil that men do - especially the little evils in our day-to-day lives, those that we justify and rationalise away, because our fears are fed by salacious headlines and egotistical, meglomaniacs who actively incite people to live down to their lowest, darkest potential.
Our world has leaders such as Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-un, Mugabe, Malema (a Trump-in-waiting), Zuma, Bashar al-Assad and other modern day tyrants who have taken, or are taking, us back into the dark ages, rather than forward into a new future where all sentient beings can live in peace and safety and abundance, including our animals - Trump's sons come to South Africa and, for fun, shoot animals already threatened with extinction. 

To overcome the loss of great leaders such as the late President Mandela, the late Ghandi, the ailing Archbishop Tutu, and FW De Klerk, the outgoing Obamas and Hillary Clinton, each one of us has to act, in both small and large ways, to ensure that Love will trump hate. 

But how do we change this world, so full of fear and prejudice in even the most decent of ordinary folk, too trusting - or perhaps too fearful of an unknown, insecure future -  to see the insidious danger that lies in the silver-tongued words of these false leaders and demagogues? 

We're moving into an age in the historical timeline of humankind's evolution where we must lead by example. We must inspire people by our own right actions. We must heal the shadows in our own hearts first, before trying to heal others (which is when we usually end up merely projecting our own darkness onto those whom we profess to help). 

In this way, person by person, we can keep hope alive, even as the world darkens around us. Our inner light - expressed through small kindnesses, through consciously choosing right action over wrong action in our day-to-day ordinary lives - can be the beacon that calls to other souls who also believe that this world can be a better place for all. And, as the light continues to flicker in the storms and tempests of this world, perhaps we can inspire others to choose the light of hope over the darkness of fear and hatred that so easily divides us from our compassionate humanity.

If we can change ourselves, if we can look inward and defeat the secret enemies that lie in the wounded shadows of our hearts then, and only then, can we love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Our inner peace will spread from our single self, to our family to our friends, our communities, ever outward into the greater world until, finally, Love trumps hate. 
Buy your copy of "a stranger in a strange land"
And, because love always trumps hate, here is Hillary Clinton showing us how to behave with dignity, grace and courage in the face of defeat: 

Monday 31 October 2016

All Saints Day or The Day to Celebrate the Dead

Today 31 October is All Saints DayChristian festival celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown.

In Mexico, this day is also known as Día de Muertos or The Day of the Dead.  The veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest on this day, and traditionally Mexican people gather to celebate and honour the lives of their ancestors.

31 October is also the day my Dad, Isaac Benjamin Heinemann, was born with a caul wrapped around his head. Birth with a caul is rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in 80,000 births.

My Dad was indeed a rare and special soul: peacemaker, joker, rescuer, master builder, sportsman, hard working miner, underground fire-fighter (winning numerous bravery awards), helper, healer and a talented dowser.  He couldn't, however, hold a tune, even though he loved singing hymns! Throughout his life, even two days before his final devastating stroke, he would literally give away the shirt on his back to anyone in need, irrespective of race, gender or religion: an unusual trait for his generation of Afrikaaners, brought up in the conservative NG Kerk.

To honour his spirit and his life on this doubly special day, we'll be giving away 25 x R20 notes to random homeless people, with this note attached:
My Dad and I fooling around (ca 1963)

My poetry volume A LAMP AT MIDDAY was dedicated to my dad.
Many of the poems express my grief at the long, slow process of his dying.
Happy Birthday Dad - we love you!

Monday 26 September 2016

Peace, Light and Tea

On the last Sunday of every September an auspicious event is held: 
the annual festival of peace and light at the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit.
After missing the 2015 ceremony because of overseas travel, 
we left early to travel the 100+ kilometers to the imposing temple in  Bronkhorstspruit

We lit candles for peace and light while chanting Om Mani Padme Hum

We were served tea by graceful tea practitioners, who ceremonially brewed and served each table 3 cups of tea as we listened to recorded music by YoYo Ma, Nigel Kennedy and Stepan Grytsay, as well as live chanting by the Venerable Yung Shun, with her beautiful voice.

The tea tables were decorated with beautiful table clothes ...

... as well as exquisite ikebana flower arrangements ...

... which we admired as the Abbot Master Hsing Yun, with the aid of the friendly and helpful Master of Ceremonies/Translator,  explained the concept behind the tea meditation. 
"One bud, two leaves" - the sweetest youngest tea leaves harvested for tea, but the tea also contains older leaves. Like life, the Chinese tea can taste bitter at times, but then the sweeteness comes through. 

 We made new friends - here we are with Phil from Pretoria, 
in his traditional dress honouring the source of light and life, the Mother Sun ... 

... and here are Preloshnie, Shereena and Nabawiya from Sasolburg.

Afterwards, we headed home to Johannesburg with our tummies filled with tea 
and our hearts filled with peace and light. 

We're already looking forward to next year's ceremony, but I'll leave you with the Merit Sharing prayer which concluded the 2016 Nan Hua Temple's Festival of Light and Peace ...

May palms in every world be joined in kindness, compassion,  joy and generosity
May all beings find security in friendship, peace and loving care
May calm and mindful practice give rise to deep patience and equanimity
May we each give rise to spacious hearts and humble thoughts of gratitude.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Enter Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a copy "Beauty & Truth"

Celebrate the 2016 McGregor Poetry Festival (26-28 August 2016) 
by entering this giveaway of the 2015 McGregor Anthology "Beauty and Truth," 
containing an inspiring range of South African voices, emotions and reflections  

GIVEAWAY ENDS ON Sept 04, 2016
Two copies available to win

Sunday 31 July 2016

For the Love of Poetry

South African poet Judy Croome was judge of the 2016 Writers 2000 Poetry Competition. 

Read the "BEDFORDVIEW & EDENVALE NEWS" article here.

Listen to Judy Croome present feedback to competitors and announces the winner: 

All the photos of the festive function at Inyoni Creek Club House 
Here are a few photo highlights:
Andrea Girling wins a volume of my poetry "a Lamp at Midday"
Giving the poetry entrants feedback and announcing the winners
Chairperson Nicki Bosman, Vice Chair Mike Corders and
Burgie Ireland of Writers2000
The Carnival themed Awards lunch had some imaginative and fun masks!
(I'm not wearing a mask!)
David and Gail Robbins from Porcupine Press.
David judged the non-fiction category.
Anthony Ehlers judged the fiction category
Poetry prizewinners from Left to Right: Jill Jacques (2nd placed poem "Sheddings"), myself,
Meggan Preuss (1st placed poem "You and I" and Duncan Steptoe (3rd placed poem "Emergence")
Being a judge has its rewards - not only reading great poetry ,
but also walking off with some lovely gifts!

Thank you to Writers 2000 for a fun filled afternoon!  

Wednesday 22 June 2016

The Land of Normality

After the choppy seas of the past seven months, we’re finally returning to normal.  However, after the challenging times behind us, what is normality?

The waters are calm and peaceful again: my husband is back at work; I’ve submitted a new short story to a US publisher, another is about to go off to a South African publisher; and we’ve returned from a short, soul-restoring holiday to Kaapschehoop.

What a relief to realise that after traumatic events – be it the loss of a loved one or a life threatening illness — life goes on and normality eventually returns.

Or does it?

While on the surface life seems to return to the same rhythms as before the crisis,  there are small beacons flashing reminders that irrevocable changes have occurred: the frozen Facebook profile of a deceased friend; the multitude of scars criss-crossing my husband’s body; and the red-ringed date on my calendar marking the first of his many future check-ups.
Can life ever return to normal after rough seas have battered our shores?

Image purchased from 

©"Waves" by airn
It’s less than a year since our lives changed. We’re still picking through the flotsam, discarding psychological and physical debris, re-designing our world, for life can’t ever return to what it was.

Post-trauma, when the rough seas abate and we dock on rocky shores, we look around and discover a new world. Small yellow dandelions creep through the cracks in the rock; the sun is partially obscured by clouds ... but dandelions aren’t always weeds and clouds also bring purifying rain.

Filled with gratitude, we anchor ourselves and accept that life, no matter how changed, can still thrive and grow in this land of our new normality.

Saturday 21 May 2016

The Art of the Here and Now

I used to be a planner.

My days and months were planned years ahead. I had lists of the lists of the things I needed to do.

Yet, with my attention focused on making all those lists and plans, I didn’t realise that life itself was passing me by. Insidiously, plans and lists dominated my life.  So stealthily I didn't notice it happening, my days lost their balance in the clamouring demands of everything that needed to get done. 

Since my husband’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and now (thanks be to God) his slow recovery, I’ve learnt that one is most alive when plans must be changed in an instant and there’s no time to make lists. 

Life these past seven months has consisted of focusing only on this moment, this day. No time to worry about yesterday’s mistakes. No time to stress about planning for tomorrow’s tasks. No time to think, just to be in the moment and deal with whatever happens. 

Living in the present moment
allows us to be open to whatever experience comes our way

Image purchased from 
©"Life Crossword Puzzle" by kaan tanman
Life can’t be planned. Life can’t be controlled. Life can only be lived in the here-and-now. 

Sometimes it takes a terrifying crisis to make us understand on a deep spiritual level that this moment of existence is all we really have. In spontaneaously living through the crisis, we learn how to differentiate between what's essential to our happiness, and what is ultimately superfluous. 

And how enlightening that discovery has been.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

The Art of Imperfection

When we reach a certain age – that awful age when we realise more time lies behind us than could ever lie before us – a change comes over us.

Somehow, our mortality and our regrets, the huge gap between what we had hoped and what is our reality, become more defined.

At that moment, in one final desperate leap to stave off our finite humanity, the temptation is to either compel ourselves to close this gap by any means possible or to let ourselves slide into a spiral of negativity, dwelling on our perceived failures and losses.

Is this the point in our lives when we should stop dreaming and simply accept that this is as good as it’s going to get?

Not quite.

Of course, there are certain realities in life that maturity forces us to accept – ill health, financial problems, responsibilities that youth neither knows nor cares about. These limits could cause resentment and anger to eat away at our peace of mind.

If we are to find happiness in our old age, if we are to avoid the curse of becoming grumpy old men and women, we need to face the shadows looming out of our fears. We need to embrace our limitations, as well as our secret, festering wounds and those irritating imperfections with the same fervour we embraced our wild and youthful dreams.

Once we accept that as much as our humanity includes the inevitability of lost dreams and lost loves, it also excludes the possibility of perfection,  we can open our hearts to a different dream: one that finds contentment in the mellow moods of middle-age. We can slow down and listen to the silence between each breath rather than run ever faster in a futile attempt to overcome the inevitable imperfections in our lives.

When we no longer deny our human-ness, when we accept that we were born imperfect beings in an imperfect world, it is then that we begin to evolve beyond the tyranny of perfection.

We can then treat ourselves, and others too, with a little more kindness, a little more tolerance. And then we can begin to aspire to new dreams anchored in the reality of our ordinary lives, but with the potential to carry us through to the end of this, our life’s journey.

The art of imperfection teaches us how to accept the gap
between what we want to be and what we are.

Image purchased from ©"Glass Trap" by bowie15

Monday 21 March 2016

The Art of Stillness

Have you ever sat in a hospital ACU isolation unit, your loved one too sick, too restless, for you to read or work or do anything except hold his hand and pray?

In those anxious moments, the aggressive, active mind spreads turmoil and fear. The “what ifs?”, the guilt, the worry, all jostle and shove their way into your mind until you struggle to breathe under the weight of waiting for the first sign that your prayers have been answered and your loved one is safe.

At first, when I sat watching the restless sleep of my beloved husband, his face grey against the hospital linen, with its gay white swirls adorning the light blue pillow cases, this inaction, this helpless inability to do anything other than wait, was purgatory.

Later, this testing time became a great teacher, for I am learning the art of being still.

There's the physical skill of sitting still; of learning to control my natural inclination towards  movement and busyness. Wriggling in the chair, scratching itches and rustling through my bag - all futile efforts to pass the time, so that the clock conveniently placed on the ACU ward wall would magically speed up from ten o’clock to five past ten to twenty past ten ...

Some people may see the art of being still as being passive, but stillness is an active art, a conscious act of choice with a definite goal: mastering the body to keep one’s natural movements to a minimum, allowing my beloved to sleep and heal in a peaceful, calm atmosphere.

Once that essential skill is learned another, more difficult, skill is required to master the art of stillness ... Keeping the mind still, a seemingly impossible task with nothing to do all day except think and think.

But, slowly, as the minutes blur into hours, and the hours into days, I'm learning that there are as many rewards in stillness as there are in furious goal orientated activity.

For there, in the muted lights of that lonely isolation ward, I hear a voice speaking in that stillness. Whatever name you give it - call it the voice of God, the spirits of angels and ancestors, or simple craziness - it carries with it the message of hope that all will be well; an acceptance that whatever happens is part of that mysterious path chosen by my Divine Soul before I was even born; that what is, is what is meant to be and I will cope with whatever the day brings.

When those voices whisper their mysteries to me, I suddenly find the art of stillness has become an open doorway to a world where miracles and healing replace worry and fear ... and I can move again, rising from my chair as my beloved's voice calls to me, wanting to know that I am near and telling me that he is, at last, awake.
The art of being still becomes a doorway to another world.

Image purchased from ©"step into the great beyond" by Yuri_Arcurs

Friday 19 February 2016

The Art of Celebration

Do we know how to celebrate life?  Do we look at a celebration the wrong way? 

A celebration is usually thought of as a festival, a special event or ceremony that is full of joy. For example, we “celebrate” a wedding but “attend” a funeral.

Have “celebrations” come to mean only marking a victory, an achievement or a happy event?

Since my beloved husband’s illness was diagnosed last November, I’ve learnt that there’s an art to celebration.

Celebration doesn’t depend on outside circumstances: why should we wait for the next birthday or personal success or sunny day to celebrate?

Even in dark times, even when we’re separated from joy and laughter by an abyss of fearful anxiety, if we dig deep enough, we can find within our souls a bubble of joy, a small wonder that can and should be celebrated with both tears and laughter.

The art of celebration doesn't lie in waiting for the good times or the happy days. 

No, it lies in finding a way to walk the middle path between great joy and great sorrow; of finding one particular moment in between those two extremes to rejoice in this moment, this one instant in which we’re alive to all that life has to offer.

Can you practice the art of celebrating your sorrows as well as your joys?  If you can, then you already know what I am learning: the dark days always become brighter when we search for something to celebrate in each other, in our life and in our world.
Magnified section of "Man and the World of Stars" mixed media Wenkidu.
Find out more about this wonderful painting of a celebration dance here

Friday 1 January 2016

The Gate of the Year: 2016

From exhilarating highs to the most intense lows, 2015 is a year I won't forget.  

Today, the first day of another new year, we face  — on both personal and collective levels — an uncertain and challenging future.  We can sink into despair at the thought of an ambiguous future … or, scared, perhaps even terrified, at what awaits us in 2016, we can choose to step into the unknown, trusting that the steps we take as we walk the path we’re meant to, will be guided by the light and love of the mysterious Divine.

How we perceive or frame the concept of a Divine presence in our lives does not matter: all that counts is that we choose to walk through the gate of the year into the darkness, trusting that at the end of the year just beginning, fears will be transformed into joys, uncertainty into knowledge, and darkness into a Divine inner peace which passes all human understanding.  

Published in 1908, M Louise Haskins wrote the poem “God Knows” as part of a collection titled THE DESERT. This poem later caught the public attention, and the popular imagination, when the then–Princess Elizabeth handed a copy to her father, King George VI, and he quoted it in his 1939 Christmas broadcast to the British Empire.(1)

My maternal grandfather passed down this poem to my Mom and her siblings, and my Mom passed it on to my sister and I. That poem still resonates today and, as we cross over the threshold from the old year into the new, I find these words as comforting now as I did when, as a child, I was frightened by an uncertain future: 

God Knows
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

May 2016 bring us safely through the dark into a world 
transformed by light and love.